Everyone has seen it. Well, that is just promotional hype. But the truth is that a lot of people have seen it, in North America and around the world. I have seen it.
“It” is The Avengers: Endgame, the latest Hollywood blockbuster, the climactic conclusion of an astonishing twenty-one movies in “the Marvel universe.” That is quite an achievement for a comic book collection. It is a fun and entertaining story, with interesting characters, flashes of humor, lots of action, and a relatively coherent plot.
That is fine as far as it goes. But perhaps this is a good time to reflect that, like all stories, Endgame (and the movies that preceded it) has a worldview. A worldview is a set of assumptions about the nature of the universe that is evident in everything that is done but that may never be clearly stated. It is likely that most viewers of these movies will simply accept this worldview (through the willing suspension of disbelief) and never examine or question it.
This is unfortunate because in many ways it is an unsatisfying, unappealing, and deeply flawed worldview. Consider some of the underlying assumptions of this worldview.
- Being an ordinary human being is not enough. The underlying assumption of these movies is that human beings are not capable of solving problems and not interesting or valuable enough to tell stories about—you have to be superhuman to really make a difference and to really matter. This is not just a feature of movies in the Marvel universe but of many other currently popular television shows and movies. Few modern heroes/heroines are ordinary human beings. The leading characters are superheroes, extra-terrestrial beings, mythical creatures, werewolves, vampires, angels—or human beings given extraordinary powers by radiation, spider bites, or technology.
- Flaws are excusable in heroes. Many of these superheroes have serious character flaws—anger management issues, ego issues, addictions. We human beings are all flawed. The problem is not that these types of movies portray these flaws but that, like many other stories currently on television and in the movies, they often excuse them. The idea is that the lead characters can be excused for their flaws because of their superhuman powers and their importance in saving the universe. This attitude has overflowed into other areas of modern life. If someone is a great singer or actor, it is considered alright that he is a sexual predator. If someone is a great athlete, it is okay for him to act like a jerk. If someone is a great political leader, it doesn’t matter that he is corrupt and dishonest. We are all flawed, but flaws should never be excused.
- The world’s problems are solved by violence. The massive violence in these movies is considered acceptable because it is the only way to save the world or the universe. The devastation of entire cities is merely the backdrop for the action. The destruction and suffering of the thousands and millions of innocent bystanders is never portrayed. They are just collateral damage. All that matters is who won in the end.
- There is no clear meaning to life and no ultimate resolution for the problems of the world. Strangely, Endgame does not portray a contest between good and evil. There are no ultimate standards, and there is no guiding force or purpose to the universe. No one is ultimately in charge. Instead, what we are presented with is competing visions of how to solve humanity’s problems. Thanos, the villain, wants to solve the problems of the universe by wiping out half of life. His approach has overtones of those who want to curb surplus human population by abortion and assisted suicide. Or terrorists who want to eliminate infidels. Or communists who want to eradicate the capitalist classes. On the other side are The Avengers, the good guys, who want to save the world by engaging in a massive war to annihilate Thanos and his forces. And if they succeed, they admit that the war will leave behind a flawed human society for which the superheroes have no answers.
In the end, the twenty-one movies culminating in Endgame leave us with an unsatisfying worldview—a flawed human society that can only be preserved (but not changed or improved) by violence perpetrated by superheroes who cannot exist in real life.
Compare this to the Christian worldview:
- Human beings are made in the image of God and are loved by God as His precious creation
- Sin is never excused. It can be forgiven, but only at great cost—the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
- Life’s problems can best be tackled through love, honesty, truth, righteousness, work, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and sacrifice, and ultimately they will be resolved by a loving and just God.
- There is a clear meaning to life and a clear purpose for the universe revealed in the Bible.
- There will be a final victory by Christ over all evil and death, and an unending future of perfect peace and blessing, a future where there will be no more tears or suffering and where death is swallowed up in life.